Chioggia Beets

Dear Farm Partners,

We’re happy to place in this week’s basket our first round of Chioggia Beets (pronounced kee-OH-jee-uh), an Italian heirloom beet with brilliant pink skin and candy cane stripes on the inside. They’re rather beautiful to look at, and make a special treat for those among us who love beets. You can cook these up just as you would regular beets, but I must inform you that those beautiful stripes and vibrant colors fade in the cooking process. If you wish to showcase chioggia beets in a dish, I would suggest some kind of raw beet salad. Either grate your beets (maybe with Carrots?) and add a little olive oil and lemon juice, or slice them very thinly. Thick chunks of raw beet are not very appetizing, at least to me.

Keep in mind that beet tops are a bonus! All those leaves are edible and make good cooked greens. In fact, they are almost exactly the same thing as Chard (they are virtually the same plant, one is simply bred for leaves and the other for the root) which brings me to

Swiss Chard and Broccoli: This week some of you received broccoli in your basket, and some of you received Swiss chard. I realize that for the chard people this adds up to a lot of leaves if you account for the Kale and beet greens. Thankfully these greens can be cooked down with garlic and stirred into many wonderful pasta dishes (such as Alice Water’s Swiss Chard Gratin) or into an egg frittata. For the broccoli people, don’t forget to eat the broccoli leaves. They are very tender and have a nice broccoli taste.

White Russian Kale: This is like the Red Russian Kale of a few weeks ago, except with white streaks instead of purple.

Purple Kohlrabi: You have all met this vegetable before, but while I’m at it I may as well mention that, surprise, kohlrabi leaves are ALSO EDIBLE.

Salad Mix

Hakurei Turnips

Spearmint: Spearmint can be used in tea, like last week’s peppermint, but is very common as a cooking mint for both sweet and savory dishes. Add it too your grated beet and carrot salad or salad mix.

This week’s bread share consists of Polenta Oat Currant loaves (it sounds crunchy but is actually a nice soft bread, a little denser than regular white crusty loaves).

We’re always looking for more Farm Partners, so if you’re enjoying your produce, egg, or bread shares, spread the word! Even though it’s a few weeks into the season, it is not too late to sign up for a harvest basket. 

Thank you for being a part of our community!

Ashli

 

Week 3

Dear Farm Partners,

You might be amused to realize that the bunch of red radishes in this week’s basket are not actually radishes. They look like radishes, and even taste a little like them, but are in fact Scarlet Turnips, a slightly sweet and spicy salad turnip. They are similar to the white Hakurei turnip of two weeks ago, except they are not as soft or sweet. They do have that stunning pink coloring, however, which makes them a nice addition to green salads. Scarlet turnips are firm, almost like the larger fall and winter turnips, and stand up well to cooking, particularly to roasting.

Please note: I love roasting just about anything, and I love turnips of all kinds, so roasted turnips are a staple food for me. I realize that many people in America may not be used to turnips, as they are more common in Europe. However, I would say that salad turnips are a wonderful introduction to the flavor of turnips in general. Roasting is also a simple way of cooking vegetables which brings out the natural sugars, particularly in root vegetables such as turnips, creating that wonderful glazed, browned, slightly crispy, roasty effect which I absolutely adore. This is why I often suggest roasting as a cooking method for many vegetables, because I feel that it brings out the best in a vegetable, unlike boiling (which has its place, but has been overused in American vegetable cookery along with its cousin, steaming).

Also in your basket this week:

Carrots! Cook these if you want, but please, just enjoy them as they are in all their sweet, crunchy goodness. The combination of carrots and scarlet turnips will make a very colorful salad.

Basil! Blend it up with your Garlic Scapes, olive oil, and salt to taste, and you get farm-fresh pesto!

Peppermint. Peppermint is so fresh and sweet-smelling, you might just want to tuck it into a vase and enjoy its aromatics. The easiest way to consume it, while still enjoying its freshness and aroma, is by brewing peppermint tea. Bring water to a boil. Depending on how strong you like your tea, use two to four whole stems of mint leaves per tea pot. Alternatively, place a stem or a few leaves in a single mug. When water is ready, pour over leaves and steep for 5 minutes. Sweeten if you like, and enjoy. Mint leaves are a great addition to iced tea!

Salad Mix

Kale

For those who receive bread shares, the bread this week is whole wheat with seeds.

Enjoy!

Ashli

 

 

 

Week 2

Dear Farm Partners,

We’re in fully swing for our second week with EIGHT wonderful items:

Red Beets
Red Russian Kale
Fresh Dug Red Norland Potatoes
Garlic Scapes
Dill
Scallions
Salad Mix
Purple Kohlrabi

Conveniently, several of these items make tasty combinations. Beets and dill are a classic example, as are potatoes and dill. Roasted beets can be seasoned with chopped dill for a straightforward side dish, as simply as that. In my opinion, this combination is even lovelier in beet salads. A simple beet salad could be cooled roasted beets and onion tossed in a vinaigrette dressing and dill, or  beets and goat cheese on top of Salad Mix. Scallions (similar to green onions) or chopped Garlic Scapes would be nice additions to either a hot or cold beet dish. If you do  not care for beets, beet soup does not have as strong of a beet flavor (although the soup and everything in it will be red, red, red).

Speaking of Garlic Scapes, I suppose we should introduce you to this curly plant. As the name suggests, it is part of the garlic plant. You are probably most accustomed to the garlic bulb, from which we derive our garlic cloves. The bulb grows underground, and sends up a large stalk above ground that eventually produces a flower. The garlic scape is  the flower stem and bud, snapped off the plant before it had a chance to bloom. These scapes have a very strong fresh garlic taste, and can be used as you would use garlic cloves. They are also marvelous when roasted or sauteed in butter as a vegetable side dish!

The last item I would like to highlight is the gorgeous Red Norland Potato. I cannot say enough about these fresh potatoes! It is nearly impossible, for myself at least, to eat a non-organic, store-bought potatoes hereafter. These are not mealy, but have firm flesh and an almost creamy texture, and the flavor is just so potatoey. I always suggest that, if you are eating such potatoes for the first time, don’t do anything special to them. Just boil them whole in lightly salted water for 20-30 minutes, drain, and eat them plain, marveling at how good they are. Then you can add butter, etc. These are very good for potato salad (with dill, of course).

A note on “Fresh Dug” potatoes: These are wispy-skinned fresh potatoes, so do not try to store them like you would a thicker-skinned storage potato. Keep them refrigerated and use them like a fresh vegetable (although it is still inadvisable to eat them raw).

Enjoy,

Ashli

Welcome!

Dear Farm Partners,

We’re excited to welcome you to another CSA season with Excelsior Farm! Whether you are a new partner or a returning one, we thank you for joining us. Returning partners will note our move from a weekly printed newsletter to the blog format. Yes, we’ve gone virtual. While we loved our print Excelsior Farm Chronicle, we have found that so much happens on the farm, and so little of it fits on a single page. This format allows us to update more regularly, as well as share more photographs. We hope you enjoy the extended version of the Chronicle (who objects to extra pictures, anyways?).

We will also continue to provide you with recipes and practical information to go with your weekly share of produce. Some items, like the Salad Mix in this week’s basket, are self-explanatory. Others, like the delightful white Hakurei  (or salad) Turnips and Arugula are less commonplace, and so we offer ideas to get you going. The occasional exotic vegetable will appear, such as the strange Purple Kohlrabi. Even these may be eaten without fear (although I will admit that I still think this vegetable is kind of weird. If you’re not sure which one it is, just look in your basket and find the weird one. You know what I’m talking about). So, let’s get started!

Kohlrabi: As crazy as it looks, it’s a very straightforward vegetable. To prepare it, cut off the leaves and peel the purple skin, which is tough and unpleasant to chew. Once you’ve done this, the whitish flesh can be sliced and eaten raw (it is very crisp and refreshing when chilled). If you wish to cook it, kohlrabi can be easily roasted or sauteed. To roast, cut it into chunks and toss in olive oil, then spread in a roasting pan (use salt and pepper if you wish). Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes, until tender and golden. Kohlrabi leaves are a bonus, as they are edible!

Hakurei Turnips: These are wonderful, sweet little turnips that are best when eaten raw. You can munch on them, or slice them as a salad topping. If you would like to cook them, they are delicious as a roasted vegetable. Roast them whole (or quartered, depending on size), following the method for roasting kohlrabi.

Arugula: One of my most beloved vegetables, arugula makes a wonderful salad green. It can be rather peppery, and mixes well with tangy dressings (vinaigrette or lemony dressing) and aged cheeses (Parmesan). If the spiciness of arugula is too much, you can cook it by mixing it into soups, pasta dishes, and egg dishes like quiche. It can also be whipped into pesto!

French Breakfast Radishes: These are a very pretty alternative to the usual round radish, and are mildly spicy. Slice them for salads or sandwiches, or snack on them if you prefer. Just be sure to try snacking on them the French way, by buttering them. Yes indeed! Slice them in half, spread on some unsalted butter, and dip them in a little bit of sea salt. Unusual, and delicious.

Vate’s (Winterbor) Kale: Winterbor kale is very hearty. I prefer it cooked, but it can be chopped very thinly and incorporated into salad. Kale salads, like arugula salads, are very nice with tangy dressings, cheese, nuts, and/or fruit. Kale is wonderful when simply sauteed in butter!

Sage: Sage is very fragrant and versatile. You can use it to season meat (pork, chicken, lamb), potatoes, and bean dishes (especially white beans). I’ve even heard of people using it in apple pie! Excelsior Restaurant uses it to make sage butter (mix into softened butter and chill). To store sage, wrap fresh leaves in paper towels and keep in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. To preserve it longer, you can dry the leaves by hanging them upside down on the stem, and then keeping them in containers. Sage leaves can also be frozen.

Enjoy the first week!

Ashli